Red Devils deliver strikes and spikes

Baseball, softball teams take the field as boys volleyball readies for season opener

The Hinsdale Central baseball and boys volleyball team are locked in on conference success and deep postseason runs this season, while the softball team looks to both veterans and newcomers to power their performance.

This is fourth and final installment in the series of spring sports previews.


First game: March 21 vs. Neuqua Valley (V lost 2-4)

Last season: 20-10, conference champs, lost in regional final

Head coach: Jason Ziemer

Years as head coach: 10

No. of varsity members: 27

Team strengths: This group is extremely athletic and balanced. We should be able to do all three phases well, with our athleticism and speed making this team especially exciting to watch. We have some guys that can run and bunt and be aggressive on the base paths, and some guys that can hit the ball with authority, too. The fact that we can do a lot of different things makes a little bit different than in the past. I feel really good about our top three pitchers, and we have relievers who are strike throwers and can mix up their pitches.

Areas for growth: We have had a few injuries to start the season, along with a number of our guys playing on the basketball team, which made a deep playoff run, so it's been a bit of slow start. But once we are healthy and at full strength we will be able to compete with the best teams in area. Defensively, we're a little bit of an unknown, and we need to get our pitchers healthy and ready to throw,

Who to watch: Returning starters senior shortstop/pitcher Ben Oosterbaan, senior catcher Charlie Bergin, senior infielder Andres Waelter and junior outfielder Luke Jurack. Also returning are senior pitchers Will Ho and Max Merlo, senior third baseman/pitcher Max Pavlik, and senior outfielders Joe Boggs, Jeffrey Preusser and Gavin Vande Lune, who should all be big contributors.

Season outlook: The team is looking to make history this year by winning a third consecutive Western Suburban Silver Conference title for the first time in school history. The conference is about as competitive as it's ever been, and we have maybe the toughest schedule we've ever had at Hinsdale Central, playing potentially half our games against top-25 teams in the state. We should be seasoned by playoff time and well-positioned to make a deep run. Our game plan is to get our pitchers peaking at the right time to make a postseason run with the goal to win another regional and then make a run in the state tournament.


First game: April 3 vs. De La Salle

Last season: 7-14, lost in the regional semifinals

Head coach: Brittany Zust

Years as head coach: 7

No. of varsity members: 15

Team strengths: We have a core group of girls who truly not only love the game, but they continue to get better. We're lucky that we do have a lot of senior leadership with the drive and motivation to win. I'm really banking on them to teach our underclassmen the ropes, and that will help determine how much better we continue to get. We are excited to have new assistant coach (Kendall) Duffy on the team. She brings a wealth of knowledge and a new dynamic to help us on the field.

Areas for growth: We do have a heavy senior class, but then we're pretty evenly spread between juniors and sophomores. We have girls competing in practice everyday for those starting spots. Our pitching is OK with two veterans, but if there's any area I'm looking for improvement, it's in pitching.

Who to watch: Senior catcher Paige Filips along with juniors Maisie McDaniel and Naomi Cook are important power hitters for us. I'm also excited that, for the first time in a long time, we have some small speedy girls we can mix in our lineup. I'm excited to see what freshman Audrey Arroyo can contribute at the plate, along with a speedy senior, Amelia McClaughlin. Our two senior pitchers Sarah Brosius and Amanda Drew give us good experience on the mound.

Season outlook: I'm really excited for what this particular group has to offer. Every year we get more and more talented, which is a testament to softball's growing popularity in town. Our motto is, "Show up to practice everyday and get better at one thing." We just want to hone in and be able to walk away saying we improved in one area. That's what's going to change ball games.

Boys volleyball

First game: April 4 vs. LT

Last season: 33-6, lost in the sectional final

Head coach: Tom Gilbert

Years as head coach: 2

No. of varsity members: 14

Team strengths: What I really like about this year is we have our senior captains Jakobi Lange and Nick Kujalowicz leading us, which is exciting. We had a really good freshman group come out this year, too. We have a different look in the middle this year, but this is really good, well-rounded team.

Areas for growth: Over the course of the season I hope to see more of our younger players stepping in and contributing, especially in some of the higher-pressure situations. Having that young talent in our system allows our juniors and seniors to plant early seeds of expectations and lead by example. I want us to be a team that's feared for years to come.

Who to watch: Senior outside hitter Lange and senior libero Kujalowicz will lead the way. We also have a new starting setter, sophomore Harry Hughes, who's actually been invited to the USA Volleyball National Team Development Program. Senior middle blocker Jack Erickson just fell in love with the sport last season and will be a much bigger threat than a lot of teams expect. He's also one of our captains, and I'm excited to see him play this year.

Season outlook: We've been ranked fourth in the state, but our conference is really tough. Glenbard West is always tough, and two teams we really have to keep an eye out for are York and LT. It's a good thing because it just continues to push the players to be better. We've never had a state title and the boys want to be the first ones to etch their names in history at the school.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean